Sharjah DEG driving development
The Department of eGovernment of the Government of Sharjah is building support services and alliances to help government organisations in the Emirate to build solutions to increase happiness and satisfaction of all residents and citizens
The development of e-government programs around the world has been driven by as many different factors as there are programs, but one of the key underlying motivators, and the main guiding principle for the Department of eGovernment of the Government of Sharjah, has been to improve the happiness and quality of life of the citizens of the Emirate.
The Department of eGovernment (DeG) was founded in 2006, and in March this year, its role was officially confirmed with the passing of Law 4, 2015, which established it as a department and set out its responsibilities to formulate plans and programs to set up infrastructure, apply technical standards and specifications to support electronic and smart government readiness within Sharjah government entities.
His Highness Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Sultan Al-Qassimi, Director General, Department of eGovernment, Government of Sharjah, explained that the overarching principle is to improve quality of life and happiness for the people of the Emirate: “We operate in line with the vision of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. He has always asked all his entities for one thing, and that is the comfort and happiness and overall satisfaction of his people, be it through infrastructure, education, and so on. One of the main ways of making life easier and more sustainable is technology and that is where we are trying to take his vision, and translate it to use technology for the comfort and happiness of the people of Sharjah.”
The wide-ranging mandate for DeG has resulted in a number of projects in different areas to support development, but for the main part, the role of the department is to act as the information technology arm of the government, Sheikh Khalid explained, and to support other government entities to achieve their own strategic objectives.
One of the main areas of focus and activities for DeG is shared services, and the department currently serves around 65 Sharjah government entities with various services, with plans to work with more entities in future. The department has appointed account managers to each entity, and works closely with them to undertand their requirements and objectives.
“We look at ourselves as more of a service provider rather than as a government entity, trying to help them to achieve their objectives in line with His Highness’ vision,” Sheikh Khalid added.
DeG operates in different ways with each of its partner entities, Sheikh Khalid explained. With some of the larger entities, it provides shared services, and act as a consultant in areas such as application development and infrastructure projects; for some of the smaller organisations, it has helped them all the way from recruitment of personnel to establishing their systems and beyond.
One of the most important developments in this area has been the recent launch of a private cloud service, hosted, managed and delivered by DeG, to provide a comprehensive range of shared services to its client agencies. Services on offer include Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and Backup-as-a-Service. All are accessible through a dedicated portal, the Sharjah Services Government Portal (SSGP), and services can be self-provisioned or supplied with assistance through a dedicated support desk.
In IaaS, DeG is offering core computing, network and storage, and allows each entity to manage its own virtual machines in a private cloud environment. DeG also offers web hosting services, for web applications, databases, and application layer services, to help government entities to access the IT solutions they need without the overhead of provisioning and maintaining their own hardware and other costs.
Software-as-a-Service offerings include Website-as-a-Service, to allow government entities to create websites through templates; solution development services to support organisations in customising their websites; mobile development support, and web application development support. Clients are also able to utilise a set of ready made plug-in web applications which include common requirements such as time & attendance, booking systems, correspondence management and complaints & suggestions modules.
Other ‘X’aaS offerings include Microsoft Exchange based Mail-as-a-Service, to provide complete mail services without any administrative requirements for the customer; and File transfer-as-a-Service, which allows for secure transfer of files between government entities and external agencies.
DeG is also providing a Government Entity Interconnectivity Service, which enables organisations which are connected to the Sharjah Government Entity Network (SGEN), to connect their systems and share information.
Another service provided by DeG is software licensing management, where the department co-ordinates enterprise software agreements with vendors to control costs and make sure client entities have the applications they require.
“We look after maintaining the relationships with international vendors for software licences, we make it easier for our clients. For example we have an Enterprise agreement with Microsoft, so all of the requests can come through us,” Sheikh Khalid explained.
To support these services, and to create the platform for new services going forward, the Department of eGovernment has undertaken a major networking project, which uses the fibre optic network of Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority to give government departments high bandwidth connectivity. Phase one, which is due to complete by end of this year, will connect 28 government departments across the Emirate.
The department has also deployed an advanced data centre for hosting services. DeG’s previous data centre had been housed in its old premises, but the building was not suited to a modern data centre. The DeG has moved to a new building, but the most viable solution to meet its expanding requirements was to deploy a Modular Mobile Data Centre (MMDC). This new data centre has been designed to Tier 3 standards, and because it is housed in a container, it can provide the platform required with flexibility to relocate in future.
Going forward, DeG is working with Sharjah government entities to develop closer integration between their services, to streamline services and create digitised offerings for citizens. It has also launched an online forum for IT professionals and managers in Sharjah to increase collaboration and communication between organisations and improve sharing of expertise.
The department is also working with Federal government and the governments in other Emirates, to build co-operation. DeG has worked on a single-sign-on project with Emirates Identity Authority, and aims to be the first government entity to adopt this for its employees once it is launched. It is also looking to knowledge sharing with Dubai Smart Government, to learn from their experience.
“Our goal is to help all of the Sharjah government departments, to serve the citizens better,” Sheikh Khalid said.